This June, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s shared universe of “Baltimore” and “Joe Golem” is getting bigger with “Lady Baltimore.” The series is going to focus on Lady Sofia Baltimore, set thirteen years after the conclusion of “Baltimore,” and I have to say, I’m pretty damn happy about this news. Sofia is my favorite character from “Baltimore” and now she’s getting her own series! The first arc, ‘The Witch Queens,’ is a five-issue miniseries written by creators Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden with art by Bridgit Connell, colors by Michelle Madsen, letters by Clem Robins, and covers by Hugo Award-winning illustrator Abigail Larson.
Read on for our interview with “Lady Baltimore” writer and co-creator Christopher Golden.
Christopher Golden: This is an ordinary woman, small of stature, who grew up in dark times and has seen the best and worst of humanity, but more importantly has learned that there is rot and malice beyond the veil of the world we know, and that it’s up to anyone with knowledge and courage to fight back the encroaching darkness. She never expected to become a fighter, a leader, or a standard bearer, but somehow she’s evolved into all of those things. Sofia started life as a poor girl in a village in Estonia, married a much older man who turned out to be a brutal bastard, and when she thought life couldn’t get worse, black magic infected her life.
Following the story of “Lady Baltimore” is something that’s been in the planning stages for a long time. From the moment we introduced Sofia back in “Baltimore: The Witch of Harju,” something about her struck a chord for me. Like the rest of Baltimore’s associates—his apostles, if you will—she had her own terrifying experience with the supernatural, but unlike the rest of them, she didn’t have any expectation that the world could revert to normal. She grew up poor, with only her mother, married a much older man when she was eighteen simply to take the burden off her mother, only to find herself with a brutally violent husband. His death was a blessing, until he came back to life. When she joined Baltimore’s crusade, it was never about returning to things as they had been, because for her, they had always been dark. This is part of the reason that Baltimore and Sofia became actual friends, trusting one another.
While writing volume six, “Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King,” I realized that she was the only one he would confide in. The only time he seemed to still be human was in a few quiet moments with Sofia. By the time we reached the end, Baltimore had been hidden away from the world for a long time and only Sofia had been in contact with him. Harish became jealous of their closeness, and I knew at that point that they had already married. Theirs was not a physical relationship at all, but Baltimore hoped and expected to die in the final conflict with the Red King and he had no heirs. He married Sofia so that his ancestral home and title would not vanish and so that she would have a life—if she survived—in a world without the Red King’s influence. For Sofia, it would also mean resources to continue to fight if it became necessary. Even Baltimore had had a life of privileged normality prior to World War 1—more than any of the others, really—but Sofia had never had that. She appreciated what Baltimore had done for her, but didn’t expect the life of privilege he was hoping to give her. All of this came into my head over the course of writing those last three volumes of “Baltimore,” but especially as I wrote the very ending. I mentioned it to Mike, and he agreed immediately. We wanted a different kind of hero, and Sofia is that hero. It’s a new beginning, a ton of new characters and new relationships, new monsters. I’m loving every minute of working on this book.Continued below
Joining you in telling Sofia’s tale is artist Bridgit Connell. I’ve had a chance to see her work on “Lady Baltimore” and she’s an excellent fit for the character. She’s remained faithful to Peter Bergting’s take on the character in “Baltimore,” but she doesn’t feel restrained by it either—her pages are full of energy.
CG: Mike Mignola, editor Katii O’Brien, and I put together a list of artists we felt confident would be able to tick all of the boxes required for this series—dynamic characters, crazy monsters, complicated action, fantasy scenes, and detailed historical backgrounds. We had a fairly long list and we snuck around online looking at artist portfolios. It was instantly obvious that Bridgit Connell would be a perfect choice for the book. I loved the character work and the background art I saw online. Katii and I agreed she was our #1 pick even before we found out that Mike had met her and been impressed by her personally, and also was a big fan of her art. I was so relieved when she said yes, and even happier the first time we met via Skype to talk about the book. I’m absolutely loving collaborating with Bridgit. She loves doing research, digging in, coming up with fantastic bits that connect some of the dots before I’ve even had time to do it. I’ve worked with incredibly talented artists before, but on top of her obvious skills, Bridgit brings a passion and enthusiasm and creative intelligence that forces me to up my game. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how vital the support of editor Katii O’Brien has been. Katii is passionate about this book, and that means everything.
While “Baltimore” largely revolved around vampires, in the latter half of the series witches became more and more important. And in “Joe Golem,” witches play a huge part in the golem’s past. Since the first arc of “Lady Baltimore” is titled ‘The Witch Queens,’ I get the feeling this is a story that you’ve been laying the groundwork for for a while now.
CG: You are not wrong. The absolute greatest thing about working with Bridgit Connell is her personal need to know more, to explain more, to understand for herself the mythology of this world. She’ll ask me questions, and if I don’t have satisfactory answers, she’ll sort out answers that make her happy. In this way, between the two of us, we’ve evolved a whole spectrum and hierarchy of witches. Often I don’t invent a thing until the story requires it, but Bridgit will always think about what a thing is going to need to look like later, so she can draw it that way now. Maybe I shouldn’t sing her praises so loudly or someone will try to lure her away. There’s an old blues song called “Don’t Advertise Your Man,” and the same is probably true of your artists. But the hell with it, she’s joyful and professional in equal measure, and that’s an invaluable combination.
The 1938 setting immediately caught my attention. There’s been quite a bit of speculation from readers about what World War II was like in the Baltimore / Joe Golem universe (or if there even was a World War II). After all, Adolf Hilter met his demise in 1916 when he was killed by a bunch of vampire nuns in “Baltimore: The Curse Bells,” yet in 1967 Joe and Mr. Church ran into some ex-Nazis in “Joe Golem: Occult Detective—The Outer Dark.” Considering World War II had such a huge impact on the 20th century, and given how much this world’s history has diverged from our own, I’m extremely curious to see “Lady Baltimore” explore this era. I imagine you must be building up quite a pile of notes about this alternate history.
CG: I’m not the sort of writer who does background essays to publish in the comics or collections, but yes, I’ve been eager to write about this universe’s World War II ever since we killed Hitler in ‘The Curse Bells.’ It’s no accident that I established in “Joe Golem” that Nazis still “happened.” You won’t get a full explanation in the pages of “Lady Baltimore,” but the implications are certainly there. I’ll say this much—the rise of power of the Nazi party was certainly aided by their alliance with the Hexenkorps, an association of witches who are forming a power base of their own at this time. You might even call them an army. As for Hitler, his influence will still be felt, years after his death.Continued below
CG: What you said. I’m absolutely thrilled, partly because the series is basically self-contained. I really wanted it published in a format that made it easy and relatively inexpensive for readers to get the whole thing in one go. These two volumes are gorgeous, the sketchbook sections are massive, and the price is right. I also feel like many of the readers who know me as a novelist haven’t read these comics, and these volumes make it easy for them to rectify that. Yeah, they’re gorgeous.
The second volume, which collects all of Sofia’s exploits with Lord Baltimore, will be out later this month. That’s excellent timing for readers that want to explore her past before diving into “Lady Baltimore” in June. You and Ben Stenbeck have even made a bit of an event out of it by adding a new story for this collection.
CG: Serendipity. A few years back, Mike did his Year of Monsters, where each month he would do an alternate cover for one of his Dark Horse titles that would feature a classic monster against one of his own characters. One month he did Baltimore vs. King Kong. I still want a t-shirt of that cover. Then…early last year, I think…he reposted it as a Facebook memory. Immediately, Ben Stenbeck and I started a conversation in the Facebook thread about how we both wished we had actually done that story. I said we should still do it, Ben said he was in, and then I started thinking about how we could make it happen. I talked to Katii, wondering if we could do it for Free Comic Book Day or something, and I’m pretty sure it was her who came up with the idea of just including it as a special extra in the second “Baltimore” omnibus. It is such a fun story and it was amazing to get to work with Ben Stenbeck again. Between Ben, Peter Bergting, and now Bridgit Connell, I’ve been blessed in the art department the way few other writers in this business have been. The original King Kong is one of my favorite movies of all time. Top Ten, at least. Maybe Top Five. While our giant ape is obviously not Kong himself, we did a “Baltimore” story very much in the spirit of that film.
Before we wrap up, I want to check in on some of your work in the Hellboy Universe. Lately, Dreamscape Media has been releasing new audiobook editions of the prose novels, including your books Hellboy: The Lost Army, Hellboy: The Bones of Giants, and all the short stories collections you edited.
CG: I don’t have much to do with them except that Dreamscape sent us some audio samples from which to choose a narrator. They had approached Dark Horse, who ran it by Mike and me. Audiobooks are the way in which so many people consume fiction these days that I’m thrilled to have those Hellboy volumes available, but hopefully this will lead to more audiobooks and even audio dramatizations in the future. I’d love to see the story of “Lady Baltimore” spread into other mediums. Now I’m mentally casting the role for audio!
“Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens” #1 is hitting comic book shelves June 10, 2020. You can check out the full announcement over on the Hollywood Reporter and an exclusive look at some monsters designs at Dread Central. You can find Christopher Golden on Twitter and his website; Mike Mignola’s on Twitter, Facebook, his “Mike Mignola’s Art” Facebook group, and Instagram; Bridget Connell on Twitter and her website; Michelle Madsen on Instagram; and Abigail Larson on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
In the meantime, pick up the second “Baltimore” hardcover omnibus on March 25, 2020 or perhaps give a listen to some Hellboy audiobooks. (There’s also the Odd Jobs and An Assortment of Horrors anthologies.)